U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) continues to support the rescue efforts of the government of Honduras from the flooding caused by Hurricane Eta. Units of Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) have been deployed to the most affected areas of Honduras since November 5. Two days later, a JTF-Bravo team landed in Guatemala.
“Our immediate number one priority is to save lives,” said in a statement U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, SOUTHCOM commander. “These deployments highlight the importance of our strategic location at Soto Cano [Air Base in Comayagua, Honduras], which allows us to rapidly mobilize and respond to a crisis like this.”
A team of 69 service members from JTF-Bravo with two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters coordinates life-saving efforts in the area of San Pedro Sula, department of Cortés, Honduras. JTF-Bravo is also providing support from its headquarters in Soto Cano with two HH-60 Black Hawk and a CH-47 Chinook. According to JTF-Bravo’s Public Affairs office, between November 5 and 7, more than 50 Hondurans who were stranded by flooding have been rescued in the department of Cortés and Santa Bárbara.
“This is a tremendous disaster,” Honduran President Orlando Hernández said via Twitter. “We are coordinating joint rescue operations with the U.S. Army; thank you for saying present and giving all your support to the Honduran people.”
On November 7, two JTF-Bravo helicopters, one HH-60 Black Hawk and a CH-47 Chinook, with a team of some 14 elements, landed in Guatemala to support rescue operations in the affected areas of the departments of Quiché, Zacapa, and Alta Verapaz, said to Diálogo Army Colonel Rubén Antonio Tellez, Press director of the Guatemalan Defense Ministry.
“The helicopters [from JTF-Bravo] that came will be deployed to these areas; they are the first aircraft to come in with supplies and they could get people out in large numbers given the capacity of the helicopters,” Col. Tellez said.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Peter Thayer, JTF-Bravo’s director of Civil Affairs, said the U.S. presence in Guatemala is based on shared values. “We need each other and we are in this together,” he said.
“Solidarity at this time is the most important thing and the United States has not hesitated to extend its hand to us. On behalf of every affected Guatemalan, I thank you for your support with these two helicopters that will strengthen the rescue efforts and the transfer of humanitarian aid,” said Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Twitter.
For Col. Tellez, the rapid response of JTF-Bravo “is a sign of the good relationship between the governments and the Armed Forces of the Central American region and the United States.”